Draa Hobbs Quartet Shines At Vermont Jazz Center

By WILLIAM BALLARD
Special to the Reformer
BRATTLEBORO -- Last Friday at the Vermont Jazz Center, guitarist Draa Hobbs and his quartet walked on stage to an eager, standing-room-only audience, a gift to any musician, and all the more so because of the evening's miserable weather. The four musicians, Hobbs, bassist Dave Shapiro, drummer Phil Ori, and tenor saxophonist Scott Mullett, returned the welcome with two hours of exhilarating jazz.

The selection of material was delightful, a sampling of some of the best eras in jazz's long history, and each song was there because of the musicians' special affection for it.

The first set opened "The Night Has a Thousand Eyes" and the second set with "The More I See You," two songs proving to be far better as jazz vehicles than the pop radio hits they where known as. "Dolphin Dance" and "Yes and No" come from the significant body compositions of Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter of the mid-1960s, written during their historic stay with Miles Davis but independent of it.

The VJC's late, lamented founder Atilla Zoller was "in the house," as Hobbs picked up a hollow-body Hofner guitar designed by Atilla, sporting strings and pick-ups also of his design -- "It makes me nervous," Hobbs said.

He concluded the introduction to his solo rendition of Duke Ellington's composition "Black Beauty" from the Cotton Club days of Roaring '20s Harlem.

At the end of the evening, JVC Director and pianist Eugene Uman joined the group for another Zoller composition, the rainbow of the waltz "Meant to Be." The first set ended with Atilla's favorite rendition of "Body and Soul," as a bossa nova.

Both bassist Dave Shapiro and saxophonist Mullet served with the Woody Herman Big Band. The Herd's popular "Four Brothers" was a feature in 1949 for Herman's four saxophonists Stan Getz, Zoot Sims, Serge Chaloff and Al Cohn and has sprained its share of fingers since.

The quartet rode these tumbling melodies and swiftly moving harmonies beautifully. In another briskly paced standard "You Stepped Out Of A Dream," Scott turned his large sound directly toward drummer Phil Ori. With the bass and guitar out, the two of them, burning ferociously at that tempo, formed the firestorm of notes and hits of the sort first ignited by saxophonist John Coltrane and his drummer Elvin Jones.

No one could have expected the large audience at the Vermont Jazz Center on Friday evening, but given the jazz we've known from these musicians before, The Draa Hobbs Quartet gave us, as expected, jazz at its best.

DRAA HOBBS
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Reviews:

"Guitarist Draa Hobbs deserves special note for his many contributions ranging from straight swinging...to feedback-flecked guitar on the blues." - Cadence Magazine


"Hobbs gave us very interesting and expressive solos, dependable sense of rhythm and well crafted lines."
 - Green Mountain Jazz Messenger

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